Behind the Slide – Franky Vazquez

National Reining Horse Association Professional Franky Vazquez’s road to success begins with customer service, but his love of reining starts with the horse.

Vazquez, who was born in Mexico, moved to the United States when he was 5. He lived with his brother, who was working for NRHA Professional Steve Archer in the Houston area.

“I used to help my brother after school and spend time with him and the horses,” Vazquez said. “His boss asked me if I liked riding horses, and I said, ‘Yes, I love riding! I love watching you ride them! I like what you do!’ And then he asked me if I could start helping him with some horses, and I was very happy to do it.”

That first summer, Archer got serious.

“He goes, ‘Can you meet me at 4 o’clock in the morning tomorrow?’” Vazquez said. “So I’m like, ‘Yes, I’m so happy to be there at 4 o’clock in the morning.’ So I was getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock at night with Steve Archer, riding horses and helping. It was probably one of the best times of my life. It got in me, and that’s how I started.”

Vazquez still starts work at 4 a.m. every day.

“The best thing about being a horse trainer is the time that you put in with the horses,” Vazquez said. “You build something so special with them. Reining keeps me so motivated. Every time you get a baby started, and you feel the finesse that they have from the time that you put in, it’s so exciting, you know?”

After working for Archer for nine years, Vazquez worked for Tom McCutcheon, John O’Hara, and Shawn Flarida before hanging out his own shingle.

“I have a big group of rookies and non pros,” Vazquez said of his facility in Hempstead, Texas, where he teaches a lot of riding lessons.

Vazquez’s program begins each year with a group of 2-year-olds that his team starts training. Later, Vazquez takes over, and when the young horses have advanced in their careers enough, he begins allowing some of his non pro clients to ride them a few times to see whether they might click as a team for the horses’ 3-year-old years. He also takes 2-year-olds on the road, showing them the sights at the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel and later the NRHA Futurity.

“That’s always special when you have those horses that you start from the beginning,” he said. “You know them, and you get along really good with them. At some point, you’ve got to choose which ones you can show in the open or which one is going to be for somebody in non pro.”

While Vazquez devotes a great deal of time getting horses ready for the show pen, he also keeps his eye on his customers.

“It’s more mental than physical because they’re all going to practice,” Vazquez said. “Everyone is going to make mistakes. We make mistakes as riders, and some of them take it so hard on themselves. So I think the best thing for them is just to prepare  mentally.”

It’s the same advice he would give anyone. “I think that we’re going to have those days that we think we can’t get it done or we always worry about something,” Vazquez said. “Tell all the reiners out there, ‘Let’s just stay on. Let’s stay motivated.’ Even if it’s good or if it’s bad, we’ve just got to keep trying hard and do our